Cornerback Richard Sherman, front, is the most visible member of the 'Legion of Boom.' (Otto Greule Jr / Getty Images)
Jersey City, N.J. — To hear its members talk, the Legion of Boom is more than just a clever and fitting nickname.
It’s a code of honor.
“That’s a brotherhood,” said Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor, who supplies much of the boom for the Legion. “It just shows how tight of a unit we are, how close we are and how connected we are. We have each other’s backs and we hold each other to our standard.
“When you’re out there you know that our brothers are playing 110 percent, so you have to give 110 percent.”
The Legion of Boom is the Seattle Seahawks’ secondary, the backbone of the NFL’s stingiest defense. Chancellor, fellow safety Earl Thomas and cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell are the starters. Corners Walter Thurmond and Jeremy Lane are also in the club.
“L-O-B,” Sherman said. “It’s brought us together as a secondary and really brought us together as a family and a brotherhood. It gave us something to fall back on, something that we really could tip our hat on, that we could really say, ‘We’ve made it. We made this. This is who we are. This is what we are. This is our personality. This is our group.’”
Sherman led the NFL with eight interceptions this season. He has an NFL-best 20 since 2011. His pass breakup in the end zone against the 49ers sealed the Seahawks’ victory in the NFC title game and punched their ticket to the Super Bowl. Let him break down the unit:
“Legion is a vast army,” he said. “It shows the depth and incorporates everything into it. We boom. You’ve got Kam Chancellor out there, who’s probably the most physical safety in the league. He booms. He’s the enforcer in the Legion of Boom. Earl Thomas is a speed demon. Byron Maxwell makes plays every game.
“I think all that comes together and makes us a great group. For the team, we try to be the spark plug. We’ve tried to be the energy. When a play needs to be made, we try to be the guys to make the play. I think our team accepts and appreciates our role.”
The Legion allowed only 16 touchdown passes in the regular season and helped keep opposing quarterbacks to a league-low 63.4 quarterback rating. As a defense, the Seahawks led the league in fewest points allowed (231), total defense (273.6 yards) and pass defense (172 yards). They also led in takeaways (39) and interceptions (28).
“I did an interview a few years back at the (practice facility),” said Chancellor, explaining the origin of the nickname. “It was a radio interview where they were basically talking about the styles of play. I was telling them when we attack guys, we want to lay the boom on them.”
The radio station took suggestions for nicknames.
“They came up with bunch of names and I was like, ‘No, not this one, not that one,’” Chancellor said. “But then we saw ‘Legion of Boom,’ it was pretty catchy. Legion sounds pretty important, and boom was how we play, so it was the name we ran with.”
Chancellor is the boom master, for sure, posting 278 tackles since 2011.
“I always tell guys on my team, in hitting, it’s a want-to,” he said. “You can’t just go out there and lollygag around, thinking you’re going to make the tackle. You have to want to. You have to know you’re going to deliver for us and make an impact and you’ll be a force in the game.”
The Legion’s primary mission Sunday will be to disrupt the intricate rhythm and timing of quarterback Peyton Manning and the Denver passing game.
“They are as good as advertised,” Manning said. “One of the more impressive things is how well they play together as a unit. You really see them communicating out there on the field — safeties talking to each other and their linebackers talking to the corners.
“That’s not always true for every single defense. That’s a big part of their success. When you combine that with just a lot of talent on that defensive side of the ball, to me that is why they are such a good defense.”
The Legion doesn’t deploy any tricks or disguises. They line up in the same spots and defend anything and everything that comes in their path.
“They pretty much just line up, and say, ‘Hey, we are better than you, and we’re going to beat you,’” Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker said. “They do a great job (in different) situations, and getting pressure on the quarterback. Their defensive backs are instinctive and can make plays.
“We will definitely have our hands full on Sunday.”